The White House ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to hold off on changes to a federal biofuel mandate amid political backlash from mid-western lawmakers, sources said.
EPA “was told to abandon two changes that were under consideration,” sources told Bloomberg. The move came after President Donald Trump spoke with Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds on Wednesday about possible changes to the biofuel mandate, called the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
“They didn’t make any assurances on that specific issue” White House press secretary Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Wednesday of Trump’s conversation.
EPA Administrator Pruitt also spoke with Reynolds this morning and met with midwestern Senators on Tuesday, including Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, one of the staunchest defenders of the RFS.
“Administrator Pruitt had a call with Governor Reynolds this morning, following meetings yesterday with Sens. Grassley, Ernst, Fischer, Roberts, Sasse, Rounds, and Thune,” EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“What Administrator Pruitt said in his confirmation hearing still stands: he doesn’t want to take any steps to undermine the objectives in the statute of the RFS,” Bowman said. “We continue to work with RFS stakeholders to ensure EPA is applying the statute in a meaningful way, as Congress intended.”
EPA was weighing reducing the quota for biodiesel production and a policy change to allow exported biofuels to count towards meeting RFS requirements. The ethanol industry opposed both these measures.
Support for the RFS cuts through traditional party lines, and Republicans in major corn growing states will generally stand up to their party at the slightest whiff of reform to the biofuel mandate, which was put in place during the Bush administration.
The RFS requires refiners to blend ever-increasing amounts of ethanol into the U.S. fuel supply. Refiners that don’t blend fuel must purchase Renewable Identification Numbers, or RINs, to comply. Refiners have been agitating for reform or repeal of the RFS, which has been costing the oil industry more and more every year.
Anger over EPA efforts to scale back the RFS has already cost Trump politically. Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst came out against one of Trump’s nominees to EPA, forcing Senate Republicans to postpone his confirmation hearing.
Grassley said “plenty of senators” would oppose Trump’s EPA nominees if they persist in fiddling with the RFS.
However, EPA recently brought on a senior policy adviser, Jeff Sands, who previously served as a biofuel lobbyist for Sygenta.
EPA has until the end of November to set biofuel quotas for 2018.
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